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Thundershirt Review: Does It Really Calm Anxious Canines?

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Gear By Kelsey Snyder 8 min read August 25, 2021

Thundershirts Calm Dogs

Combatting canine anxiety can certainly be challenging, but one of the simplest solutions is to slip your pup into a Thundershirt. This all-natural, drug-free fix helps your four-footer feel secure. 

We’ll explain what a Thundershirt is, how it works, and how to decide if it’s a good option for your dog below.

Key Takeaways: Does the Thundershirt Really Calm Anxious Canines?

  • Thundershirts are fitted garments designed to soothe anxious dogs through compression. The snug fit of a Thundershirt provides pressure therapy, relieving tension and helping your dog to calm down. 
  • Thundershirts can be used to treat anxiety triggered by a number of events. Wearing a Thundershirt can aid in alleviating general anxiety, as well as anxiety caused by fireworks, storms, or travel.
  • Severe anxiety may not respond to a Thundershirt alone. For more complex cases of anxiety, your dog may need more than just a garment to find relief.

What Is a Thundershirt?

A Thundershirt is a tight-fitting top designed to help dogs displaying signs of stress and anxiety to feel more secure.

The term “Thundershirt” comes from the brand name, though it has become synonymous with the garment itself and is often used a general term for any tight-fitting body wrap for canines (this is called an eponym – it’s like how the term “Q-Tip” is used for nearly any small cotton swap). 

But today, we’re limiting our analysis to the classic Thundershirt product to give you an honest take so you can make the best choice for your pup. 

Styles

The Thundershirt comes in several styles, including classic, sport, and polo. Differences between the types vary from the overall color to material choice. 

For most dogs, the classic Thundershirt will do just fine around the house. If you’re looking for something for your pup to wear on the go, the sport option may be a better pick.

foster dog Pirate modeling the Thundershirt Sport

Materials

All Thundershirts are lightweight and breathable, though there’s a material difference between the sport style and the others in the Thundershirt lineup. 

For example, the classic and polo Thundershirts are made with a mix of polyester, spandex, and rayon for a snug yet comfortable fit. By contrast, the sport style is made out of 100-percent polyester. 

Sizes

Thundershirt Sizes

All Thundershirts are available in seven sizes, ranging from XX-Small (for dogs weighing less than 7 pounds) to XX-Large (for four-footers weighing more than 110 pounds). 

Always measure your dog per the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure a proper fit. The company has special fitting notes about male dogs, indicating that the belly straps should never cover or compress a pup’s manly bits and pieces.  

Color Options

The classic style is only made in heather gray, while the sport variety is available in fuschia and platinum colors. The polo style comes in four looks, including blue, pink, camo, and red.

Fasteners

The best thing about the Thundershirt is how easy it is to slip on and off. 

You don’t need to struggle with fitting your dog’s head or shoulders into holes (a win for those of us with block-headed bully breeds). Instead, you wrap the garment around your dog’s body, securing it in place with a series of Velcro panels. There aren’t any buckles to snag or tempt roaming teefers, either.

Care Information

All styles of Thundershirt are machine washable. Just pop the garment into your washer on a regular cycle in the cold water setting, let the machine do its thing, and then hang up the garment to dry. 

It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

How Does the Thundershirt Alleviate Anxiety?

The Thundershirt provides a safe, compressive touch that makes many dogs feel more secure.  

By applying gentle pressure around your dog’s midsection, it soothes the anxiety of many dogs, similar to the way swaddling a baby or sleeping with a weighted blanket helps nervous humans. 

However, it’s worth noting that, in infants, swaddling is thought to work in part because it helps simulate your touch. It’s unclear if the Thundershirt performs the same function for four-footers, or whether this would be beneficial, but it’s likely that your doggo will feel some calming effect from contact with his person.

What Do Canine Behaviorists Think about the Thundershirt?

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, canine behaviorists are somewhat divided over the issue of using compression garments to treat canine anxiety.

Most appear to believe they’re unlikely to hurt, and they may help in some cases. However, it’s important to note that they may simply alter the dog’s visible response to a stressor, rather than making him feel truly calmer.

If you do try a Thundershirt with your pet, just be sure to have him wear it during fun times as well as before or during stressful events. This will help prevent your dog from building an association between the vest and anxiety-causing stimuli.

Does the Thundershirt Actually Work? Does

In many cases, yes — the Thundershirt absolutely helps to reduce canine anxiety. 

The company boasts an 80% effectiveness figure, and many reviews agree, seemingly backing up this figure. In the majority of cases, anxious dogs see some degree of calming but it isn’t a total fix for every dog or situation, which we’ll dive more into below.

From personal experience, these performed very well at a kennel I worked at. Storm dogs especially seemed to settle once fitted with a Thundershirt. Several canine guests wore these to alleviate general anxiety during their stay, as kennels can be incredibly stressful to any pup.

Thundershirts help canine anxiety
My Experience With My Foster

Hey readers – Meg here! I just wanted to note that many of the photos in this article of the German Shepherd-looking mix with a Thundershirt are of one of my former foster dogs, Pirate.

We tried out the Thundershirt, but it was sadly not able to help with Pirate’s severe separation anxiety. So while it may help with many dogs, don’t expect it to be a miracle worker. Your mileage may vary!

Pros & Cons of the Thundershirt: A Pretty Awesome Product, But Nothing Is Perfect for All Situations 

As with any product, the Thundershirt has its ups and downs. These vary from minor things that may be no big deal to potential deal-breakers. We’ve wrangled them up into one place for you.

Pros 

The Thundershirt is undeniably a hit with many pup parents, with the top marks being:

  • Drug-free relief: Not every dog needs medication, and having a chemical-free solution like the Thundershirt is a major win with many fur families.
  • Machine washable: It’s hard to beat the ease of tossing the garment in the wash for cleaning. This is especially handy if your pup is mess-prone, like puppies or seniors.
  • Convenience: Rather than waiting for calming medications or supplements to kick in, the garment provides near-instant relief in many cases. This is a huge bonus during those unexpected pop-up summer storms or when dealing with a neighbor’s fireworks. 
  • Ease of wear: Putting on a Thundershirt is a breeze compared to over-the-head styles that are tricky to navigate with a wiggly, stressed dog. The shirt is especially handy for older dogs who may find leg lifting or manipulation uncomfortable.
  • Effectiveness: The company reports calming in more than 80 percent of cases, which is good news for those of us with worried woofers at home.

Cons 

While Thundershirts work well for many dogs, there are some definite downsides you should consider, including:

  • Tricky fitting: Owners report these run small. For dogs with thicker chests like bulldogs or pitties, err on the large side when selecting a size and always refer to the product’s sizing chart to nab the perfect fit.
  • Durability: Some owners found that the Thundershirt didn’t stand up to repeat washing and frequent use over time. Day-to-day wear and maintenance are certainly at play here, with other pup parents reporting zero qualms in this area.
  • Not enough for severe anxiety: For dogs with severe cases of anxiety, a Thundershirt alone may not be enough to offer complete relief. In these cases, a Thundershirt may need to be combined with additional strategies.

What works for one dog may not work for another, so it’s important to assess your dog’s fear triggers and overall demeanor to ensure you get a product that works for him. 

Additional Anxiety-Relieving Options for Dogs

If a Thundershirt isn’t effective for treating your dog’s anxiety on its own, you may want to incorporate some additional solutions, such as:

Will the Thundershirt Help My Dog?

While there’s no clear-cut yes or no answer until you try it, the Thundershirt is a great option for many dogs, including: 

  • Those with noise phobias: Fireworks, thunder, rain, and wind are common triggers in dogs that can be soothed with compression.
  • Those who hate car rides: If traveling to and from the vet (or in general) is nerve-racking for your pooch, the Thundershirt might just be the comforting touch he needs.
  • Excessively excitable dogs: Four-footers that bounce off the walls over the slightest things can be calmed using compression therapy.
  • Dogs with separation anxiety: These doggos may bark excessively or pace to try to settle when left alone, but compression can give them the relief they need.
  • Cases of general anxiety: For all-around anxious dogs, wearing a Thundershirt can help calm them, leading to a happier, healthier fur friend. 
  • Reactive canines: Most reactive pups are suffering from a degree of anxiety that compression can alleviate. This doesn’t mean the garment alone is a surefire fix, rather that it can be a piece to the puzzle.

While the shirt works well in many situations, it may not help in others, notably:

  • Understimulated dogs: A garment isn’t the solution if your dog is hyper due to a lack of exercise. In these cases, a daily walk or run and brain games can make a world of difference.
  • Severe cases of anxiety: With some dogs, anxiety reaches points that a garment alone won’t help. These poor pups may chew or paw at walls or pens until their bodies are sore or bloodied.

If your dog is anxious without a cause you can pinpoint (fireworks or storms), a vet appointment is necessary for a complete exam. Sometimes dogs are restless because they’re in pain, mimicking some signs of anxiety. 

And for severe cases of anxiety, you should always contact your vet. Over time, stress and anxiety can lead to health issues.

This is a sponsored placement, in which an advertiser pays a fee to be featured in this article. Learn more

pirate-thundershirt

The Classic Thundershirt Anxiety Vest

Snug wrap-around vest to soothe stressed canines

A tight-fitting, anxiety-easing garment that provides an alternative to medications and other treatments for nervous dogs.

Bottom Line: Is the Thundershirt Worth It?

While no product is guaranteed to work in every case, the Thundershirt is definitely worth trying if you have an anxious pup. 

It’s a safe, chemical-free solution, so you don’t have to worry about drug interactions or side effects, and it’s always there, unlike meds that run out in a pinch. It also provides an extra touch of calming when your pup needs it most, like during storms, fireworks, or travel. 

If you’re unsure whether or not compression will work for your dog, you can always try a making a DIY Thundershirt first.

***

Have you tried a Thundershirt with your dog? Do you have another method that works great? Let us know in the comments!

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Written by

Kelsey Snyder

Kelsey is a K9 of Mine contributor who has worked with dogs as a shift runner and office manager of a boarding kennel. When she’s not writing, she can be found throwing a ball or losing at tug of war. An animal lover to the max, she lives in South Jersey with her husband, her five dogs Boomer, Taj, Batman, Maya, and Moxie, some kitties, and two grumpy turtles.

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